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Nuclear Must Play Prominent Role for EPA Carbon Rule to Succeed

NEI: Without Nuclear, No Chance to Meet Climate Change Goals

June 2, 2014—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today unveiled rules that for the first time would limit carbon emissions from power plants nationwide as a major component of federal efforts to combat the threat of global climate change. Under its proposed Clean Power Plan rule, EPA will issue guidelines for cutting emissions while leaving it to each state to develop its own plan to meet the guidelines.

Accounting for about one-third of domestic greenhouse gases, the electricity sector is the largest contributor of carbon emissions in the United States. The EPA rule proposes to reduce nationwide carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the rule will be implemented by allowing states to choose their best mix of generation to meet the federal guidelines using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand management.

At McCarthy’s June 2 press conference, she said this strategy gives states the opportunity to shift their reliance to no-carbon sources like nuclear energy, noting that “our nuclear fleet continues to supply zero-carbon baseload power.”

Richard Myers, NEI’s vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs, said, “For any strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, one thing is abundantly clear for every state in the nation—with nuclear energy it is feasible to meet the administration’s goals, and without it there is no chance at all.”

He noted that, for more than half the states, nuclear power plants are their largest source of carbon-free electricity.

“There’s no question that any serious effort to reduce carbon emissions must acknowledge the need to maintain and expand the use of nuclear energy,” Myers said. “We are pleased to see that EPA’s proposed rule recognizes the valuable attributes of nuclear energy, including the fact that it accounts for 63 percent of all carbon-free sources of electricity during production and is the only baseload source operating more than 90 percent of the time.”

EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will hold four public meetings the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. The agency expects to finalize the rule by June 2015.

For more on nuclear energy’s zero carbon and clean air attributes, see NEI’s updated fact sheet, “Nuclear Energy: America’s Low-Carbon Electricity Leader.”